When Gambia’s ex-President Yahya Jammeh was defeated by in the December elections, he called Adama Barrow and the most important part of his concession was not accepting defeat but a warning over national security.
“Make sure you work towards peace and stability,” Jammeh told Barrow. “Without peace and stability, let me make it clear you cannot achieve anything anywhere in Africa.”
But did Adama Barrow heed to the ex- despot’s advice?
Yahya Jammeh gave Barrow his first national security test even before taking power. After his concession, he refused to cede power and had his loyalist in the army ready for a fight.
Honestly, Barrow did not know what to do but regional leaders gave him a clue and a backing. West African forces were deployed and forced Jammeh, who could not match their military might to flee.
Jammeh left the Gambia in a very dangerous phase. Without the presence of the ECOMIG forces, Gambia would have descended into civil war and by now plagued with coups.
Barrow took Jammeh’s “peace and stability” advice lightly. While preaching reconciliation, the new government failed to counter decades of brainwashing and lies by Jammeh.
This has given the APRC what it needs to continue using the people of Foni as quibble to sow discontent towards the new administration.
“Yahya Jammeh may have left, and watching grown-ups cry their hearts over it, wasn’t a good sign of things to come. This wasn’t helped by the fact that much of the infrastructure Yahya Jammeh built in order to perpetuate his reign of terror, remains intact to this day,” said political analyst, Mathew Jallow.
In the Greater Banjul and Kombo Metropolitan areas, huge billboards, and symbols of Jammeh are nowhere to be seen but in Kanilai and many parts of the southern Gambian region of Foni, huge billboards of Jammeh and influence of his APRC party remain.
The appropriate measure for the Barrow administration to have taken was to ban and prohibit any activity of the APRC, whose regime maimed, killed and tortured Gambians. Instead of doing this, Barrow’s government legitimized some of APRC’s action by rewarding key former officials with new positions.
It was an attempt to win some APRC supporters and to show that they are not a witch-hunt but this has seriously undermined the government’s authority.
I couldn’t agree more with Jallow that Foni is in turmoil, because the Gambia’s unity government decided to do, what, on the face of it, appeared easy and popular, rather than what is absolutely necessary and perhaps unpopular for the security of the nation.
The APRC has been describing the West African forces as “foreign invaders” and making a case to the people of Foni that they will be ignored the new government.
I had warned against the skipping of the Fonis by the coalition during its political campaign for the presidency. It is now coming to haunt them.
“There has not been a time when APRC considers Barrow a legitimate president and even Seedy Njie, their spokesperson, said it at Kairaba explicitly when Jammeh ministers met with Barrow ministers to do a formal transition that his president is ‘Babili Mansa,'” said senior Gambian journalist Mustapha Darboe.
“At both their victory and Jammeh’s birthday celebrations, which were both held at Kanilai. The language from the APRC side is that ‘we will die for Jammeh.’ So don’t blame the people of Foni. They are a mere pun in this. They are being used, as mere symbols, by APRC.”
Yahya Jammeh has always marked the opposition as a national security threat. That will not be the case in the new Gambia but the APRC and Yahya Jammeh himself is the very kind of threat the former dictator warned Barrow of.
As Darboe puts it: APRC must be seriously cautioned to stop inciting people in the Fonis or be banned. Jammeh does not just represent a party. He represents a system of terror, which to many is only synonymous with death, torture and unlawful incarceration.